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Monday, June 14, 2010

Interview with Spencer Coggs, Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor

By Aaron S. Robertson

This past Friday evening, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk with Spencer Coggs, one of a handful of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor this fall, at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's 2010 state convention in Middleton.

Coggs brings a wealth of legislative experience to the table. A state senator (6th district) since 2003, Mr. Coggs served in the state Assembly for the 20 years prior to that. Before that, he worked as an industrial printer, postal worker, and in the City of Milwaukee's Health Department.

Following are excerpts from my interview with Mr. Coggs.

There seems to be an anti-incumbent and an anti-career politician wave sweeping across the country right now. How do you respond to those who would say you're just another long-time, insider politician trying to climb the career ladder?

Customer satisfaction. The fact that I've been re-elected time and time again must say something about my work ethic. I'm amazed at the number of people who say, "I'm supporting you [for Lt. Governor]," and it's fantastic.

I don't mean to try to pit you against one of your competitors for the nomination here, but what are your thoughts on Henry Sanders? He's a younger guy (36), more of an outsider (meaning non-career politician), and brings a lot of fresh perspectives to the table as part of his wealth of private-sector experience.

Henry's a great guy, and it's clear he's ambitious and has a lot of great ideas. But he hasn't dealt with the bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy can derail your efforts. You can have the best intentions, but you can easily get sidetracked.

What are your plans for the office?

I want to put a laser focus on small business. Small business accounts for 80% of job creation, so it's obviously important that this be the main priority. I also believe the Lt. Governor should serve as a liasion between the Governor and the Legislature. Not too long ago, Governor Doyle alienated some Democratic legislators when he vetoed Democratic-sponsored budget legislation. With all due respect to the Governor, he doesn't come from a legislative background, so in many ways, it's more difficult for him to connect with, relate to, legislators. I think my nearly three decades of experience in the Assembly and state Senate makes me the perfect liasion. I understand the political structure; I understand the business structure; and I know how to get things done.

I always like to ask this of all the government officials I interview: What advice do you have for young people looking to enter public service?

I would say don't start out by just running for office. It's best to start out by working for someone else's campaign. That way, you can really get a feel for it and see how it affects the candidate and the lives of his/her family. There's no doubt that it's a big commitment, and it doesn't only affect the life of the candidate.

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